Congress shouldn’t take the anti-BDS bait

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Those who undermine peace, democracy, and human rights are distracting us with legislation that takes our leaders’ precious time away from actually fighting for the values and actions that our country so desperately needs right now.

By Joel Rubin | Forward | Dec 19, 2018

If we have learned anything from the past two years, it’s that we cannot take our democracy for granted and that we must instead continually speak out against injustice, intolerance, and hate. That should be the standard against which any legislation affecting America’s relationship towards Israel is judged. In an era of rising intolerance and authoritarianism both at home and abroad, Congress should not facilitate further erosions of our civil liberties.

A major bill affecting American civil liberties and US foreign policy towards Israel is being debated behind the scenes in Congress and may be attached in the dark of night to the end of year Omnibus spending package. This bill — S.720, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (IABA) — is fundamentally flawed at its core in a manner that should offend progressives and conservatives alike: it violates the First Amendment right to political free speech.

As a progressive Jewish Democrat with a strong personal connection to Israel and a professional national security background, I have been fortunate to have helped form two of the country’s leading organizations working on Israel-related political issues, as the founding Political Director of J Street and a founding Board Member of the Jewish Democratic Council of America. I believe in the mission of these organizations, as they are focused on promoting peace, human rights, and democracy — values that are central to both the United States and Israel.

These organizations were created because existential threats to both Israel and the United States require robust political activism. In the case of Israel, it’s failure to obtain a peace agreement with the Palestinians has set it on a path of continued pain, insecurity, and isolation. In the case of the United States, the failure to confront anti-Semitism at home by our President puts ordinary citizens at heightened physical risk. The solution to both of these threats is to change the politics that govern the decisions affecting Israel and the United States, which is what these organizations do.

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